Last week, Acting Mayor Kim Janey celebrated a public bike-sharing program that began 10 years ago under another Boston mayor, the late Thomas M. Menino — whose name went unmentioned in a press release saluting its groundbreaking impact on the city’s image as accessible and environmentally friendly.
Instead, Janey, who was sworn in a little over four months ago, touted her own policy contribution to the program — free bike access to workers in communities hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s good to be acting mayor. With that title comes the power to bask in the glory of other people’s ideas.
Besides celebrating the bike-sharing program, Janey also released a set of recommendations intended to bring more transparency to the Boston Police department following revelations about Patrick M. Rose Sr., a retired patrolman and union chief who somehow remained on the force for two decades after an internal investigation concluded that he probably sexually abused a child. The report had a familiar ring, at least to city councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell: “I love the recommendations because they were originally mine. These were things I fought for when drafting legislation last year to create the civilian review board,” Campbell said in a statement to the press.
Then there’s Janey’s announcement of a three-month pilot program of free bus service on a route that runs from Mattapan Square to Nubian Square. Cool proposal, right? But as Commonwealth magazine pointed out, the broader policy concept of free public transit originated three years ago with city councilor and mayoral rival Michelle Wu. Indeed, Wu showed up at Janey’s announcement and released a 17-page white paper outlining her own plans, which go beyond one bus route.
Janey has embraced other people’s ideas — especially those associated with the administration of former mayor Martin J. Walsh — since she took office. Last April, as she unveiled a new tourism campaign aimed at promoting the city’s diversity, WBUR reported that John Barros, another mayoral candidate, who served as economic development chief under Walsh, blasted out an e-mail that said: “I’m very proud to have led the creation of the All Inclusive Boston tourism campaign over the past year and I’m proud to see it moving forward.”
The Walsh administration, with Barros as a key point person, also created the Boston Contracting Opportunity Fund to increase supplier diversity, which Janey announced as her own initiative in April; a grant program to distribute money to child-care providers that Janey announced as her own in July; and small-business and relief funds that Janey keeps re-announcing.
Taking credit isn’t unique to Janey. At every political level, there’s a refusal to acknowledge anything positive done by a predecessor or current rival, especially after Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump would never recognize what his predecessor, Barack Obama, did to set the table for the country’s economic rebound; he wanted all the glory. Likewise, President Biden benefitted from Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” initiative to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. But Biden not only changed the name when he took office, he also resisted calls to credit Trump in any way.
The state of national politics is so rancid, there’s no space for grace. But in local politics, isn’t there room for a little? As acting mayor, Janey also answers for the mistakes of predecessors, from revelations about Walsh’s rash appointment of a police commissioner who was accused of domestic violence, to the police department’s long-running cover-up of the Rose scandal. If she takes the blame for how she handles the bad she inherited, she can also take credit for any good that happens on her watch. But what about sharing it? That unusual act might even inspire a few votes.
Meanwhile, Menino, who died in 2014, didn’t go unmentioned at the event honoring the bike-sharing program. According to The Boston Sun, Mayor Joe Curtatone of Somerville quoted Menino when he launched the system and declared, “The car is no longer king in Boston.” Menino, who rode the acting mayor’s position into a job that lasted five terms, would understand his role as political footnote. Still, a press release giving him credit for his transportation vision would have been a nice touch.